Influencial Ideas

Werner Erhard’s work has become an important resource for academic institutions and a catalyst for creative thinking and teaching in both the academic and corporate environments throughout the world.  His work has been noted as a key element in current management thinking and the science of productivity, performance and leadership.  As a reflection of his influence throughout the world, the friends of Werner Erhard website has been translated into JapaneseSpanish and Chinese.

Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard es el creador de modelos transformacionales y aplicaciones para la transformación individual, social y de la organización. Sus innovadoras ideas han estimulado conversaciones académicas en muchas universidades, más recientemente en las áreas de integridad, liderazgo y desempeño. Werner Erhard ha disertado en Harvard University, Yale University, Escuela de Negocios Simon de la Universidad de Rochester y Erasmus University. Leer más…



Paradigm Thinking and Productivity

PARADIGM THINKING, properly applied, leads to tangible results.

JMW Consultants, a New York based management consulting consulting firm, helps companies boost productivity through paradigm shifts with an approach called “Productivity Breakthrough Technology.  They were called in by a major computer manufacturer to help deal with a crisis.

The manufacturer was trying to get an important product out in order to take advantage of a rapidly closing marketing window. If the team of software developers responsible for the project continued the development process at their current rate – a rate that was in line with industry standards – the product would not be ready on time. If the company hired more programmers to speed up the process, they would exceed their budget. Clearly, a breakthrough was needed.

After working with JMW, the software team began to double their previous productivity. The breakthrough enabled the company to get the product out in time – and save more than $100 million over the next three years.

JMW did not teach the team new techniques for developing software. Instead they helped them shift their paradigm. In their old paradigm, the rule was “X (the predictable) amount of work in X amount of time.” The new paradigm was stated as a possibility – “Y (the required) amount of work in X amount of time.”

“The shift was to create a future – the one they needed – as a possibility, not as a prediction,” says Werner Erhard, who founded a national affiliation of management consultants with which JMW is associated. “At that point, no one knew how to do it, but they could still create the possibility.

Because there was now a new paradigm in which to see the work, the team began seeing the job of developing software differently. They then were able to generate a commitment to that possibility.”

Erhard points out that when a breakthrough is needed, what is often called for is the development of a new paradigm.

“Changing the paradigm does not negate the need for realistic, hard-headed thinking, ” he says. “In ‘business as usual’ we get clear about the situation to determine what we can do and what we can’t.

But to produce a breakthrough, you have to stand the usual approach on its head.”

The process begins with inventing a new possibility, without regard to whether you know what to do to realize it. You then look back at the situation from the standpoint of that new possibility.

“That is what gives you the new perspective and what allows you to see the situation in a way you haven’t seen it before,” says Erhard. “That is the beginnings of generating a new paradigm.” At some point in the process, he says, it will be evident that you have come up with the best paradigm for a breakthrough in that situation.

“Productivity breakthroughs are a product of seeing something in a new way, which enables you to see new opportunities and new openings for action that you couldn’t see before,” he adds. “Breakthroughs come as a result of shifting your commitment from the predictable future to a possible future.”


Reprinted from the Fall 1989 issue of Benchmark Magazine, a publication of Xerox Corporation

A World that Works

We can choose to be audacious enough to take responsibility for the entire human family.  We can choose to make our love for the world what our lives are really about. Each of us has the opportunity, the privilege, to make a difference in creating a world that works for all of us.  It will require courage, audacity and heart.  It is much more radical than a revolution – it is the beginning of a transformation in the quality of life on our planet.  What we create together is a relationship in which our work can show up as making a difference in people’s lives. I welcome the unprecedented opportunity for us to work globally on that which concerns us all as human beings.

If not you, who?
If not now, when?
If not here, where?”


Werner Erhard, 1977

Report on the est Training by Humberto Maturana

“The training is a set of interpersonal interactions that lead to emotional and intellectual experiences that provide a circumstance and an intrument for self awareness, self observation and reflection on the circumstances of the subject trainee, both in his individual life and as a social being.” – Humberto Maturana   Read more

Werner Erhard Interviews Robert Reich – 1988

Saturday Satellite Seminar Program

Every era has a relatively small number of original and influential persons, those who generate initiative, discoveries, achievements and insights which shape our own cultures and societies — and often those of future generations. If we know these people well, it is through their works: their campaigns and institutions, their books and inventions, their vaccines, their symphonies, their monuments and their firms.

The Saturday Satellite Series with Werner Erhard was a program designed to give us a new access to such people — a glimpse of the commitments and visions that inform such lives, and that serve as the source of their creations. The series was conducted as a dialogue between Werner Erhard and prominent guest speakers who are widely recognized for their achievements and expertise. These dialogues were designed not to present particular views, but to open an inquiry that elicits creative thinking and productive action from and for all participants.

Each session provided a platform for speakers to generate their own discussion, to share influences and experiences, to pose provocative questions, and to allow participants to share in a candid, dynamic and creative exchange. By way of these dialogues, the Satellite Series offered new perspectives, new insights and new ways of approaching key public issues and concerns.

Broadcast live to thousands of participants throughout the United States, each series focused on a particular theme, exploring key principles and assumptions and leading-edge insights that govern the relevant fields.

Leading public figures being interviewed included Alice Cahana, Robert Reich, Milton Friedman, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milton Friedman, Mike Wallace, Stephen Jay Gould, James Burke, Andrew Tobias, and Senator Daniel Inouye. These interviews are available in their entirety at

Werner Erhard, host and moderator of the Series, has dedicated his life to transforming people’s experience of what is possible for human beings, and their ability to act on that possibility.

A Breakthrough in Individual and Social Transformation

Presentation By Werner Erhard At The Eranos Conference 2006
Ascona, Switzerland
18 June 2006

While I was asked to speak about individual and social transformation, I will start by talking about knowing.

Think of the circle I have drawn here as containing all knowledge. The circle is divided into three sections. The first section of all knowledge is called, “What I know that I know.” We all know what to do with what we know that we know – we put it to use. The next section of all knowledge is called, “What I know that I don’t know.” Again, we all know what to do with what we know that we don’t know – we learn. Finally, there is this vast remaining section of all knowledge called, “What I don’t know that I don’t know.” What to do about what we don’t know that we don’t know is something of a dilemma. And, what we don’t know that we don’t know about human beings is an important question when it comes to individual and social transformation.

I am reminded of a physics paper entitled “Chaos” that I read some years ago about the discovery of the chaotic nature of certain physical phenomena, where a small input could result in a very large scale output, while a large scale input could result in a very small output. As I read the article it occurred to me that chaos theory certainly applied to human beings. For example, with very little said, a person might get massively upset, while years of training have very little impact on some people. Chaos theory was followed by complexity theory where, to oversimplify somewhat, the whole was not merely the sum of the parts, but the sum of the parts plus the interaction between the parts. Again, complexity certainly applies to human beings.

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Managing Time

One of the fundamental aspects of unworkability in the world is time. That’s the first lie. That’s the first apparency. That’s the beginning of the end of the truth. Time. You need to master time to have any mastery in the world. People who are at the effect of time, people who can’t create time, people who can’t manage time, people who can’t move time around, people who can’t handle time, people who are overwhelmed by time, have no mastery and no basis for mastery. The basis for mastery in the world is being able to handle time. So what we’re talking about instead of some new problem to handle is an enormous opportunity to create a context in the space, in a sense, and in an environment of workability. And that environment’s generated out of a mastery of time.

If you attempt to take a computer approach to the control, efficacy, workability, results, viability, and getting the job done, what you wind up with is a clear statement that an organization is driven by its scheduling. And you know about computers? When you take a computer approach you have to break things down to the smallest possible, controllable variable. Computers are absolutely stupid. They have to reduce things to absolute know-ability. There are no black boxes. You’ve got to know what’s happening. So a computer approach forces you to tell the truth; to look at what’s actually happening. You’ve got to get all your attitudes out of the way and all of your leaps of faith and all of your beliefs and all of the things you thought were true and all of the things that everybody knows are true and start dealing with the basic, raw, hard, little facts. Then you have to see the basic, stupid, simple way that those facts relate to each other. In other words, you’ve got to get clear about it.

Now what we’ve got is a bunch of people trying to be geniuses about something that doesn’t require any genius. We’ve been wasting people’s genius on stuff that could get handled by discipline and work. If you’ve got any genius, you aren’t ever going to get to use it unless you can discipline yourself and work. You know, work.

Work, it’s when you sit down or stand up and go to work. You literally confront things and handle things. You start at the beginning and you work your way through step-by-step until you get to the end. That’s what work is. You start at the beginning and you work step by step until you get to the end. And you don’t skip steps, you don’t explain steps way, and you don’t look in your head to find out what’s so about steps. You start at the beginning, you take every one of the steps between the beginning and end, and you stick at it. You put your nose against the grindstone with respect to it, you stick at it, work on it until you get to the end. You handle each one of the steps. You don’t leave any one out. You don’t jump over any one. That’s how you do work. You do work by being systematic and methodical. And people who can discipline themselves to be systematic and methodical have enough of themselves left over to express and contribute and use their genius.

See, it’s like people are real confused about what’s going on. All these things to do and there’s all this work to be done. All these results to get accomplished and all these people here and all this stuff and all these plans and all these words and “Gee, I don’t …” …. JUST GO TO WORK! Everything will clear up. Start disciplining yourself. Start keeping your agreements. Discipline yourself to keep your agreements and you go back to where you work, sit down and go to work. That means start at the beginning, cover all the steps between the beginning and the end, do it completely, don’t mess around in your head about it. Go to it, step by step, systematically, until you get to the end. You will have then performed work. Which results in productivity. Any small amount of which will leave some room for a contribution. Without which there is no room for contribution. Real simple. Get out of your head. Cut out all that explanation about the difficulty. And your complaints and criticisms and what we need and what we don’t need. What we need right now is for people to go to work.


From an est Staff Meeting on June 10, 1980

est: A Philosophical Assessment

Michael E. Zimmerman
March, 1982

Est: A Philosophical Assessment

The purpose of this report is to provide a philosophical assessment of est training. I first took the training in New Orleans in January, 1981, and reviewed it as an observer in Sacramento in February, 1982.
My analysis of the training is guided by my understanding of the philosophy Of Martin Heidegger, existential psychotherapy, and Eastern religions. The following appraisal arises not only from my theoretical training as a philosopher, however, but also from my own personal experience. This report is by no means exhaustive; much more could have been said about the topics covered below. Moreover, many more
issues could have been dealt with. Because of my own philosophical expertise and personal interest, however, I chose to focus my attention on those aspects of the training that bear on the topic of authenticity. I hope that this report will prove to be of some help in resolving whatever problems remain in what is already an excellent training.

My analysis of the training addresses itself, in part, to four questions posed by Jack Mantos:

1) Can the authenticity of the training be established more directly and explicitly at the start of the training?

2) How can one speak more effectively of the Self as emptiness or nothingness?

3) How is one to understand the notion of resoluteness i.e., the notion that the authentic Self takes a stand on itself as the context of contexts?

4) Is there too much subjectivism in the idea that we “create” our own experience?

Answers to these questions will be found in the body of the text, a summary of which follows.

Summary of Findings:

1) The “authenticity” of the training may be more firmly established initially if the trainer explicitly asserts that the trainer and support team are prepared to enter into agreement with the trainees. The agreement would be that everyone give 100% of himself or herself to the training.

2) There is a tendency to speak as if the training will provide more “satisfaction” in life, but if satisfaction is made the goal by trainees, they will never find it. Satisfaction ensues; it cannot
be pursued. At times, the training conveys the impression that the reason for keeping one’s agreements is to gain satisfaction. Such a utilitarian view of behavior is inimitable to the fundamentally sound view, expressed elsewhere in the training, that the key is to act impeccably: from this, everything else–including satisfaction as well as unhappiness–follows.

3) More explicit treatment of death, and the attendant phenomena of anxiety and guilt, are needed to provide a more complete account of human existence. Anxiety is constriction of the self that occurs in
the face of the disclosure of mortality, but only such disclosure enables us to make the leap from mechanicalness or inauthenticity to aliveness or authenticity. Guilt is the ontological self-corrective
that reminds a person that he or he is failing to repay the loan of life by experiencing everything there is to experience. Guilt and anxiety call the individual to the resolution or decision to live.

4) Resoluteness refers to the decision of the individual to experience whatever there is to experience. Resoluteness (Entschlossenheit) is authentic openness or disclosedness (Erschlossenheit). The decision in favor of being openness is a free choice to be the freedom that we already are, ultimaletly, freedom is not a human possession, but instead the openness or no-thingness into which we are thrown. Human existence or Dasein constitutes the clearing or openness in which the Being of beings manifests itself.

5) While the training currently makes some reference to time and temporality, a more thorough discussion is probably in order. Such a discussion would show that the leap from inauthenticity to authenticity
involves a transformation in temporality: from linearity to the circling temporality called eternity or “Now.” Linear time arises from the constriction of human openness to that of the ego/mind, which reveals things merely as objects to be exploited for human ends. Circular or eternal time arises when human existence opens up and lets beings be just what they are.

6) The training needs to define more .carefully what it means by the notion that I am responsible for all my’ experience.’ that :r am God in my universe. Apparently derived in part from Hindu doctrines of Atman or the Transcendental Self, this conception of responsibility is too easily confused with more ordinary notions. The notion that I somehow create my experience is metaphysical speculation that cannot be verified. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to redefine creating. Instead of speaking of creating as a kind of producing or making, we could say that creating is a letting-be. The former notion of creating
is masculine and typically Western, while the latter is feminine and more in line with Eastern views of reality. We could then say that I am responsible for all of my experience in the sense that I am called
on to experience whatever it is that manifests itself within the openness that I call me.” The true “I,” of course, is not ego/mind but the temporal-historical clearing called Dasein.

7) While the training speaks of everything/nothing, Heidegger speaks of Being/nothingness. Although what both parties mean by nothingness or nothing is similar, they differ considerably on what they mean Being and everything. For Heidegger, Being does not mean the totality of things, but the presencing or self-manifesting of beings. To identify Being with every thing to make a category-mistake.

8) Although the training currently emphasizes the importance of participating and sharing with other human beings, the implicit idea of the training is that we humans should share ourselves with all
beings. Hence, the Hunger Project should naturally lead into the Planet Project designed to save the earth from environmental destruction.

9) Heidegger claimed that everything great happens from within a heritage or tradition. Perhaps it is time for est to acknowledge that it is part of the great wisdom traditions of East and West. One goal of est would then be to empower people to revitalize their own traditions.

10) Miscellaneous Observations.

11) Conclusion.
12) Appendices.
A) Michael E. Zimmerman, “Heidegger’s ‘Existentialism’
B) Michael E. Zimmerman, “Towards a Heideggerean Ethos
for Radical Environmentalism.”

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